Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Protesters hold up signs before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 28, 2020.

Protesters hold up signs before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 28, 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

"I Don't Think That You are Telling Us the Truth": House Democrats Grill Pompeo on Iran and Coronavirus

"You can't hide behind classification on this one because you can't classify something that doesn't exist."

Eoin Higgins, staff writer

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Friday assailed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for non-answers and evasions on issues related to the administration's policy on Iran and its plans to handle the spread of coronavirus, which threatens to explode into a global pandemic. 

The two-hour hearing took place following two months of repeated requests by the committee that were resisted by Pompeo despite Congress' official role in oversight of the executive branch. 

"Mr. Secretary, it shouldn't have been so difficult to get you here, and your appearance here today is far too short," said committee chair Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). "While we had to wait for you, the world doesn't wait for anyone."

The "Evaluating the Trump Administration's Policies on Iran, Iraq and the Use of Force" hearing—which began with CodePink protesters denouncing Pompeo's role in the administration's aggressive policies and warmongering being removed from the room—was held to discuss President Donald Trump's Iran policy, stemming from the assassination of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 2. 

Democrats on the committee said they were not convinced by Pompeo's repeated assertions that Soleimani's assassination was justified because of an immediate threat to American lives and interests.

"I have seen that classified information and after reviewing it, I don't think that you are telling us the truth," said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).

In a fiery exchange, Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) asked Pompeo to show him on a map of the region which four embassies had been under threat from Soleimani.

"Point out for us, which of our embassies were under threat of such an imminent attack that you had to kill General Soleimani—regardless of what the consequences might be—on January 3, 2020," said Levin.

"I'm never willing to disclose classified information," Pompeo replied. "I assume you're not either."

After a lengthy back and forth in which Pompeo repeatedly claimed the locations were classified, an exasperated Levin fired back a sharp retort. 

"You can't hide behind classification on this one because you can't classify something that doesn't exist," said Levin.

While the hearing focused on Iran, comments from administration officials downplaying the coronavirus outbreak—including those by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland earlier Friday morning—were an early topic of discussion. 

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) asked Pompeo if he agreed with Mulvaney that the coronavirus was a "hoax." Pompeo didn't answer, dismissing the question as a "gotcha."

The potential pandemic and the secretary's pattern of not appearing in front of the committee were at the center of an exchange between Pompeo and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). 

"It's taken you two-and-a-half months to come here before this committee to explain the actions of January 3," said Sherman. "Today, the world faces a worldwide pandemic—the coronavirus. Will you come next week and explain our international efforts to deal with the coronavirus, or will it take us two-and-a-half months to have you back here?"


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

'A Deeply Dangerous Order': Trump-Appointed Judge Blocks Biden From Pausing New Oil Drilling Leases

"The judge's order turns a blind eye to runaway climate pollution that's devastating our planet."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


After Far-Right Marchers Chant 'Death to Arabs,' New Israeli Government Bombs Gaza

"The problem is bigger than Netanyahu—it's apartheid."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


Progressives, Big Tech Critics Celebrate Confirmation of Lina Khan as FTC Chair

"Her presence on the FTC marks the beginning of the end of an era of lawlessness for powerful corporations that they've enjoyed at the expense of workers, smaller businesses, and democracy."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance': Calls Grow for Justice Breyer to Retire

"Democrats could lose our razor-thin majority in the Senate at any moment," warns Rep. Mondaire Jones. "It would be irresponsible to leave the future of our democracy up to chance."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Share of Fossil Fuels in Global Energy Mix 'Has Not Moved by an Inch' in a Decade

"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past 10 years have mostly been empty words," said the executive director of REN21, which released the new report.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·